It's not the UN Security Council that decides whether military action in Syria is right or wrong

Why do so many still suggest that Russia and China should determine our foreign policy?

The position of those who oppose military action against Syria is understandable as is the position of those who support it. What is unfathomable is the position of those who support or oppose intervention based on whether a UN Security Council resolution can be obtained.

That the US, Britain, France, China and Russia agree (or disagree) on an act does nothing to tell us whether that act is ethical, prudent or sensible. Yet politicians continue to surrender their independence of mind to this anachronistic and unrepresentative institution (Britain and France, with 60 million people each, are represented, while India, a country of 1.2 billion and the world's largest democracy, is not). In its statement on Syria, UKIP declared that "any intervention must carry with it a full mandate from the United Nations rather than a desire by western nations to meddle abroad." Labour has similarly suggested that "consideration by the Security Council" is an essential pre-condition for military action. To which the appropriate response is: why should the Stalinist bureaucrats of Russia and China determine our foreign policy? 

After arguing ten years ago with those who claimed the Iraq war would be justified if a second UN resolution could be secured (does anyone now believe they were right?), I had hoped that we now recognised the Security Council as the irrelevance that it is. But on the basis of today's evidence, the old delusions still persist. 

The UN Security Council meets regarding Syria on August 30, 2012 in New York. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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